25 April 2017

Local Tunes Round Up: Ben & Ben, Squid 9, Asch, Ankhten Brown, Leon.e

Manila’s days are heating up, and local musicians are only here to add to that. This week’s local tunes round up features two new tape releases, a cool spin on a meme, a new single from an up and coming duo, and a fresh new music video. Cool yourself from the blazing sun with fresh new music below:

Ankthen Brown ft. Dru Jetzon - Cash Me Outside

Most memes end up overused and overstaying their welcome, but Ankthen Brown and Dru Jetzon’s spin on the popular line Cash Me Outside makes you forget its annoying origin. The song is quick but catchy, and you’re sure to be repeating its hook after your first listen, which we’re sure won’t be your last.

Ben & Ben - Leaves

Fresh from their successful EP launch last December, it seems like the duo Ben & Ben have no plans of taking it slow anytime soon with their latest release titled Leaves. A departure from their more upbeat first single Ride Home, Leaves is somewhat sad yet hopeful, apt for its subject of endings and beginnings.

Leon.e - Statements

Two years since his last release, Leon. comes back with a new name and a fresh beat tape to boot. Previously known as SOUL_BRK, Leon. opts for a honest and simpler approach to his music, evident in his new drop. The song statements is a standout, complemented with Timothy Vaughn’s flawless bars, but we guarantee that each track off the tape will pull you in.

Asch - Beats for Sale/Lease

Hot on the heels of his Ashes to Ashes track release, electronic soul and jazz musician Asch does everyone a favor with his Beats For Sale/Lease set. Armed with his usual head bobbing beats, each track is slick and smooth, some with tight drops sure to give you eargasm. 

Squid 9 - Shiny

Local electronic group Squid 9 dropped the video for Shiny, a song off their 2016 album Weld. Enlisting the help of Taken By Cars drummer Bryan Kong, the video sees members Shinji Tanaka, Ymi Castel, and Raymund Marasigan passing a mystery box along the walls of Crazy Katsu, NAIA, and the streets of Hong Kong. The mystery is never revealed throughout the video, but the smooth beats and the vicarious travel to Hong Kong make the cliffhanger worth it.

21 April 2017

Curtismith just wants to free his mind

“I’m the one they badmouth,” opens Manila rap artist Mito Fabie, known for his moniker Curtismith (a portmanteau of famous Filipina actress Anne Curtis’s surname), on his new EP, Soully, Yours. The idea of dissing, in and of itself, is a part of rap’s DNA. One of the most pervasive arguments in its history and one of the core of rap pride is authenticity, something Curtismith himself reveres and aims to translate through his songs. As he navigates the local industry, he finds himself a target for exactly who he strives to represent: himself and earning his place in a culture that relishes in hypercompetition, representation, and – dare I say – greatness. In Curtismith’s case, he is aware of the criticism that inevitably comes with his work. Asked about it, he seemed unperturbed. “I heard a couple of [diss] tracks but they weren’t good enough to make me feel any type of way to give it more attention that it needs,” he said.

Words by MC Galang & Photography by Marvin Conanan

Filipino hip-hop is currently experiencing a renaissance, an overdue recalibration of prevalent, but outdated, styles from the 20th century and early 2000s and reshaping audience perception. We are way behind our Asian neighbors in terms of progress and recognition, a frustrating irony for a good reason: despite the prevalence and global domination of hip-hop in pop culture, we have a burdensome slow progress of catching up, at least collectively speaking: there seems to be a fixation to an earlier era that popularized rap rock, novelty rap, and boom bap iterations, most of which did not age well. The rebirth of local hip-hop sees both innovation and diversification, much like how Western hip-hop continues to seep into different musical styles and cultures all over the world. Curtismith believes that the local scene has both the panache and the talent to deliver: “We’re bringing a different flavor to the global melting pot. We’re currently in the process of making an ‘ecosystem’ of urban music with all these different styles and artists – and the more new and old artists emerge with honest content, the more the rest of the world will find our country appealing from the variety of sound and emotion we offer and connect through.” That is why ‘conyo rap’, a local epithet that denotes the social class status of the MC and little else, feels hindering to him. “It shows how society likes to box things in and can sometimes be too quick to judge before actually giving it a chance.” He adds, “We need improvement in the whole ‘us versus them’ mentality and understand that we don’t need to have the same views, but we need each other for the bigger picture, [which is] global recognition.”

With three releases (the latest being a two-part EP) under his belt in a span of a little over a year, Curtismith said he considers himself an outsider. “I personally don’t label my music rap or hip-hop, nor do I like to call myself a rapper,” he explains. He admitted that prior to entering the industry, he didn’t know much about the local hip-hop scene. When asked if he thinks labeling his music something else instead of rap or hip-hop would draw less aversion towards him by his contemporaries, he simply said, “I would like to just be an artist who expresses himself in different forms.” For him, “Rap is an expression of self. For people who think that it can’t be done by another set of people because they are different is just another ‘-ism’ in play.’’ Despite everything, he acknowledges that it’s all part of the game. “But not pondered on for too long,” he concluded.

Finding His Groove

Curtismith’s latest two-part EP release is a comparatively more ambitious follow-up to his previous efforts: IDEAL, a demo tape with promising moments but ultimately came up short, and Failing Forward, which included the endearingly gallant ‘LDR’. Even after the combined 18 tracks of both, Curtismith delivers an overall interesting, yet fragmented, body of work. What it felt lacking in cohesion, he made up with diligence: putting himself out there, releasing a series of polished music videos and just enough prominent features in a number of EPs and full-length albums from longtime collaborators CRWN, Jess Connelly, and fellow rap artists NINNO and Skarm. It all came together, starting with the process of rolling out his new EP in advance on Twitter for listeners to provide feedback. “It was… me wanting to understand how my songs affected a listener and connecting more with the audience that does appreciate what I offer. A thank you, as well as a ‘Please let me know what you think so next time I can do better.’”

On Soully Yours, the first part of his new EP, Curtismith is inarguably in his best form. His confessional style of rap yields nuances of intimacy, “snapshots of particular points in my life,” according to him, that he wishes to convey in characteristically soulful vibe. It is easily his most conceptualized effort to date. The songs are woven to each other thematically and lyrically, and while he mostly takes himself seriously, he allows himself to get loose and even throw in a couple of quips. It’s easy to tag ‘Snowflake Obsidian’ as Curtismith’s best song since the CRWN-produced ‘LDR’, with its months-long premature release that helped build the interest in the single itself and the upcoming EP, but it’s the closing track, ‘Free My Mind’ that best asserts his strengths as an MC, providing us with variations in his usual cadence and just simply providing a strong, memorable record. The seven-track EP features all-original production from Filipino producers Howle (‘Prologue, ‘West’), J. Wong (title track), Kidthrones (‘Snowflake Obsidian’, ‘24’, ‘Free My Mind’), and CRWN (‘No Ways’, which has the sole feature from Jess Connelly), a fact Curtismith takes pride on. “Everything from the beginning has been collaborative, from production to recording and sound engineering.” The second part of the EP, titled Rehearsals, is a project in collaboration with a young production collective called Stages Sessions. All five songs were recorded with a live band setup that largely incorporated jazz and blues. While it is not entirely new nor uncommon in hip-hop in general, it may initially feel like an idiosyncratic approach to his music and local rap in particular. Curtismith is confident in his musical decisions and heading towards this direction. On whether he plans on translating the band setup to the studio, he said, “I would love to… but more practice has to be done before I’m confident in incorporating it with content that I come out with from the studio. It’s a learning process I still have to develop.”

20 April 2017

The first Spill the Beans of 2017 talked about the relevance of Handmade

While everyone else was just getting started on their day, Yardstick was already packed and busy serving coffee after coffee. There must have been 40+ people that Saturday morning, and they were all there for one thing – to Spill the Beans. Spill the Beans is a quarterly get-together hosted by Yardstick and Purveyr, where ideas are shared, exchanged and challenged. What happens is the invited speakers will share their ideas and thoughts on a given topic, then there will be a quick panel interview just before we open the floor for questions from the audience.

The first Spill the Beans of 2017 was held last March 25 at Yardstick, and it circled around the question "How can handmade products remain competitive and relevant in this age of technology?" We extended this query to the invited speakers, individuals who support the handmade movement through their own brands and businesses.

Jerard Jader
Co-Owner & Managing Partner of Sapatero Manila

Sapatero is a Filipino shoemaking brand that specializes in men's leather dress shoes. Their goal is to revitalize the Philippine shoemaking industry by realizing the craftsmanship needed in making them. Jerard's role is to seek out opportunities for Sapatero to grow locally, then later on be globally recognized with their high-quality footwear.

Simone Mastrota
Owner & Chocolate Maker of Tigre y Oliva

Tigre y Olivia is a bean to bar chocolate brand based in San Juan, La Union. After spending some time in California and Europe to perfect his craft of chocolate-making, Simone decided to move to the Philippines as he saw an opportunity for artisanal chocolate made from Filipino Cacao. 

Chi Gibbs
Co-Founder & Designer of Neon Island

Neon Island is a Filipino clothing brand for women dedicated to celebrating the local. All their pieces use hand drawn prints designed by Chi. The clothes they put out are a representation of her creativity and passion for the arts, as she is the sole designer and textile print artist of Neon Island.

Ettore Scagliola
After Sales Specialist of La Marzocco (Italy)

La Marzocco takes pride in their high quality espresso machines handcrafted in Florence since 1927. It has been 90 years since their conception, so their world renowned reputation is as expected. La Marzocco strives to produce top of the notch specialty coffee equipment that goes beyond the actual machine and the coffee it produces.

After hearing these four individuals talk about their work and their passion, one can only imagine the positive energy that enveloped the room. The exchange of ideas was informative as it is inspiring leaving the audience eager to know more.

Join us at the next installment of Spill the Beans. Stay tuned and follow us on Instagram.

19 April 2017

Tomorrow's Second Collection is all about Letting Loose

Starting from a fondness of thrift-shopping and a philosophy lesson, local brand Tomorrow is now on its second collection. And it's looking cooler than ever.

Photographed by Andrea Beldua, the collection takes off from the first with designs responding to 2016. "Admittedly [2016] was a pretty bad year," said Tim Lopez, one of Tomorrow's founders. "So we thought this would represent letting loose, letting wild, letting go of bad things."

This is a sentiment prevalent in the collection's lookbook, making use of solid pastels and a retro feel. And mixing in quirky graphics with uplifting sentiments, it's definitely something you'd want to wear the whole summer long. You can purchase Tomorrow clothing at tinyurl.com/ordersoftomorrow.

16 April 2017

BP Valenzuela’s releases irresistible first single, ‘bbgirl’ off upcoming new album

A few weekends ago, BP Valenzuela unveiled her new single and music video, ‘bbgirl’, featuring August Wahh (Chocolate Grass) and No Rome, who also directed the video. Released as the first single off her upcoming full-length album, Crydancer , ‘bbgirl’ is remarkably different – arrangement-wise – from the distinctly electronic pop ballads featured in her debut, The Neon Hour, and first EP, be/ep. On ‘bbgirl’, BP Valenzuela refocuses on her own vulnerability by playing to her songwriting strengths and signing up more collaborators to execute a sound that stays true to herself but also celebrates her experiences that helped shape who she is today (Crydancer sounds like her reimagining of (or nod to) what Robyn did with the smashingly endearing Body Talk). And it shows, with ‘bbgirl’s charm and whimsy, which No Rome was able to train his lens on impressively. Moreover, its notable feat in editing gracefully shows the build-up of sweet tension between the leads, fulfilling its purpose rather than exploiting an act for mere shock value. The groovy bassline, which anchors the song all throughout, is BP at her danciest since ‘Pretty Car’ and ‘Building Too’, only with a tad slower tempo. It’s a pretty straightforward track, but incredibly technical. No Rome hops on for closing verse, to, if anything, drive the song home.

12 April 2017

On This Island: A Visit to the Independent Shops of Cubao Expo

After the short run of PurveyrTV back in 2013, we never had the chance to do another video show. Although it was always something we really wanted to do, there was no opportunity to produce one again. But after four years, and in PURVEYR's 5th year, we now find ourselves putting out our second official video show. While this is something completely different from the past talk show, it still carries the same objective as before – to shine light on the Philippine creative culture.

This time around we do it outside – meeting people, visiting places, and exploring ideas. The new show captures the essence of PURVEYR. It will feature individuals, brands, spaces, concepts, and more. All those that we admire and believe in, On This Island. The show is designed to be an entertaining and sincere way of presenting the local creative culture and community. Let our host, Christopher Catral's (MNL$) curiosity and energy inspire you to look at "local" in a different perspective.

For the first episode of On This Island, Chris took a trip to Quezon City to visit the renowned creative spot, Cubao Expo. Known as the "Marikina Shoe Expo" in its earlier days, Cubao Expo evolved to become a space for independent businesses and concepts, which established its creative appeal. From art galleries to lifestyle stores, antique shops to unique restaurants, the mix of retail concepts is interestingly very diverse. One sunny afternoon, we met with a few of the shop owners to get a glimpse of the inspiring energy that Cubao Expo brings about. We visited Kendo Creative – a coffee shop mixed with design retail by Kayo Cosio, Gold Digger – a shop by Angelo Mendez selling vinyl records, local clothing, secondhand footwear, and more, Post Gallery – a progressive art gallery that provides a platform for new local artists, and Medisina – a clothing store by the members of the band, Greyhoundz. Chris talked to them to know more about their shops, and to understand Cubao Expo through the point of view of its tenants.

Special thanks to Playhouse Studio, Bawal ClanSimilarobjects and Buwanbuwan Collective

Illustrado unleashes their Debut Self-Titled Album to give you that Classic Hip-Hop Sound

Today's boom in the local hip hop scene has captured many listeners and supporters thanks to the music's diverse flavors. The artists currently taking over  has spawned under different genres. For those who long for hard- hitting lines rapped on boom bap beats, then better check out hip hop quartet Illustrado. Composed of emcees Batas, Sayadd, and Goriong Talas, with music from producer Apo Lerma, they just released their first, self-titled album under Uprising Records. The 15-track project is nothing short of finely-crafted, from the musicality of the instrumentals, the lyrics, down to the sound engineering. Peep the music video for maiden single "Hayop" above, while you can also check out the rest of the songs below. Now available at Astrovision and Astroplus, or you can also contact Uprising Records for online orders.

10 April 2017

Grid Magazine shares their unique Process of Writing and Depicting Travel

In a time where every minor travel detail is shared online, embedded with a gratuitous selfie and a hashtag, where does one find meaningful stories on travel? Very few service this need quite like Grid Magazine does. Starting out as a platform for the founders’ best work, Grid Magazine took on a life on its own and morphed into a love letter to the country it serves. The magazine unapologetically publishes long-form stories with emphasis on substance rather than brevity, the storytelling complemented with arresting photo coverage. It consciously veers away from well-worn tourist destinations, focusing instead on the off the beaten track places and interesting people. After all, three years down the line and the Philippines still hasn’t run out of interesting stories for the Grid Magazine to tell.

With the magazine’s relaunch into a longer format and a quarterly release, we talk to the Grid team about their journey. Admittedly, our team came in a little late in the wake of the their official relaunch, but thankfully, the Grid team doesn’t mind – theirs is not a time bound story anyway. Reflected in the way some of their stories do not see the light of day in years, the Grid team does not mind waiting for the right time.

In this discussion, we follow Grid Magazine’s story from the beginning leading to their relaunch. We visited the laidback Grid office (with desks propped up by pallets, mind you) and the Grid Magazine team – Sonny Thakur (Photo Editor), Chaz Requiña (Digital Editor), and Nina Unlay (Features Editor) – was only happy to share their story.

Photography by Marvin Conanan

Sonny Thakur

Before anything else, we’d like to look back to the beginnings of Grid. What were the guiding principles of your team that led you to come up with Grid way back in 2014?

Sonny: Most of the founders of Grid are photographers and writers, so from our point of view, one of the objectives was just to create a platform for ourselves. We were all working for or sending out stories/photos to publications like Conde Nast, Travel and Leisure, and other travel outfits, plus we didn’t have our own. I guess it was us just wanting to start something we could play with, really. The reason I got involved was that so I could produce work that I wanted to produce and have my own platform. I think many of the other founders share that same belief, but this is my point of view.

Can you share the thought process behind the "not a travel magazine, but a magazine for travelers" manifesto?

Chaz: One of the reasons why we’re not a travel magazine is when people think of a travel magazine, they’re like “When are you going to Tokyo? When are you going to Singapore?” but we’re focused on sharing stories of the Philippines and the other Filipinos. One thing that I like to think is a common thread is that when anyone looks at our photos or read our stories, there’s a certain pride in being a Filipino, even though maybe you’ve never been to Cotabato or maybe you’ve never been to Baguio. You’ll read these stories and you’ll be like, “I’m Filipino. This is the Philippines. This makes me want to travel the Philippines.” This makes you want to go discover it in a way that it puts you in a place that you’re really proud of your culture and your history.

Chaz Requiña

Would you say it’s more of story- or people-driven rather than destination-driven?

All: Exactly.

Sonny: It’s always been that. We’ve never been a destination-based magazine. If you look at our stories from the very first issue, we must have gone back to Boracay at least half a dozen times but we’ve come back with very different stories. We understand what a travel magazine is and we want to be able to bridge that gap as well. Of course we’re gonna have readers that want to know where to stay, where to eat, and we can give them that information. But first and foremost, it really is story-based versus destination-based.

Nina: I think it’s worth noting that when Grid started, we were the only publication that really focused solely on the Philippines. We don’t go international, and until now we don’t do international stories because our focus is [the Philippines]. In our manifesto, there’s a line that says “Grid is a love letter to the Philippines.” It’s really what it’s meant to be. I came in Issue 2 so I wasn’t here from the very beginning, but I hear stories from our founders where they say that there were people who would say that it’s kind of crazy to just focus on the Philippines, you would run out of things and we’re here three years later and there are so many stories that we haven’t run and that we want to run. The way we see it is that we’re writing stories that other travel magazines aren’t writing, and in a way that we want them to be talked about.

Nina Unlay

While we’re in the topic of stories, can you tell us about the process of coming up stories for your issues?

Nina: We fight for it. (laughs)

Sonny: I think the great part about Grid is everyone that’s involved, every single person in the office are people who like travelling. We’re all like-minded. On weekends or whenever we can, we’re out travelling, we meet people, and we take a genuine interest in what they have to say. A lot of our stories are leads because we travel ourselves and we have friends who travel. We bring everything back once in awhile on this very table. We talk about things, we flesh out ideas, and then start doing research. Eventually, it goes from a conversation at a bar all the way to print. We just work on our leads and work with our friends. Like I said, everyone here lives the lifestyle.

Is it easy for you to come up with stories because you experience it yourself?

Sonny: I wouldn’t say easy, but it comes naturally.

Chaz: We’re also really glad for being super diverse. I’m from Visayas and so is one of our marketing team, Nina is from Davao, Sonny is from Baguio, so we’re a really diverse group in the office.

I’m curious, how big is your team?

Nina: Twelve, I guess. We have roughly 3 or 4 people writing for every issue, 2 people who work on the layout, 4 in-house photographers, and 1 web director. We’re a very lean team.

After about three years of Grid being published, what were the notable learnings that led to the relaunch?

Chaz: We wanted to be like field reporters, and we don’t want our writers chasing our photographers and vice versa because they only have three days to complete an assignment. Quarterly releases actually give us more time for production.

Nina: Another thing that we always say, especially me because I’m a writer, is that our founders liked to say that in the beginning that we were going to be doing a lot of writing. If you look at our stories, especially if compared to other magazines, another distinction is that our stories can go all the way to fifteen pages, which is super long for a travel magazine. So, in the beginning, it seemed like maybe people aren’t going to read stories that are this long or go this deep, but we found that our readers actually really enjoy reading that format. They prefer it. We’ve tried different types, like shorter pieces or itinerary-based stories, and they said “we don’t really like that, bring back the old stuff.” So we provide them with a different kind of storytelling that they can’t find anywhere else. We provide that, and the quarterly releases give us more room to do that. So we have more pages, and we’re allowed to write as many and as long as we want. It gives us more space to play around.

Sonny: We definitely listen to our readers. Initially, we were hoping that Grid would be this magazine that people would take to the beach, read while sunbathing, spill lotion on, get dirty, and then give to a friend to read, until it gets teared up a bit. But what we found out is that there was a small percentage of people that actually keep it with them. They keep it in their homes and it becomes this collectible thing. By the time we rolled out issues seven and eight, people were asking about back issues and would buy the whole bunch and it became a collectible thing. It became sort of like a book, always sold out.

Do you have plans of producing digital content, wherein it’s not available in your printed issue?

Sonny: There’s a huge amount of photography and writing that we have. We’re sitting on this archive, and we can always repackage it and share it online. The photography that you see in the magazine is gorgeous, but we also have this archive of unlisted photos that nobody’s ever seen before that we want to release online.

Nina: We have so much content online, including videos, really good videos.

That’s actually what I was wondering about. You have really great videos, but I don’t see it as much online. Do you have plans of expanding your content into other forms aside from text and photos in the future?

Nina: We do one original video per issue depending on the story, and we do one video that follows a story. In Issue 14, we did a video on Davao. I was the writer for that story and we had a videographer with us, so she asked us if she could produce a video to accompany that piece. So, we like to think of it as two separate things but at the same time, they’re complementary. Aside from that, we also have shorter videos.

Chaz: Yes, you can see that in our YouTube channel. For this issue, our featurette is coming out in about a month. It’s about Palawan.

Aside from your issues being published quarterly, are there any other changes in the new Grid Magazine?

Nina: Grid released quarterly comes with a lot of changes. Our issues are a lot more thematic now. For Volume 1, it was all about land, air, sea, Palawan, but it was also about less-conventional traveling. If you look into it, there are a lot of different sections that talk about tours that are new, and gear that you would want to bring with you that’s not for the regular traveler. They’re a lot more cohesive that way. With the quarterly release and the addition of pages, there are a lot of mini changes that come alongside it.

Sonny: Another example is our issue perception. We like talking about local talent and people, and working with local photographers in the Philippines. When we were bimonthly, we run two pages on photography. It would be one spread or two verticals and a brief description of the photograph, the photographer, and the camera. But now, it’s extended to six pages in this issue, and in the next, I would probably give two more pages for that to feature a project and not just a single image. We also try to push our photographers because in the general photography community in the Philippines, it’s easy to find a great single image but it’s very difficult to find photographers pursuing projects with cohesive bodies of work. That’s what we’re trying to find and feature in this section. Other sections that got added more sections as well was “GRID Eats,” where we talk to a person about food or drink and have them come up with a recipe for us. Before, it used to have two pages, but now, it has six to eight pages, depending on the people who cook for us.

Sonny, I’d like to know more about your role as photo editor. Can you tell us more about how your role relates to how the rest of team works?

Sonny: Assignments come in, and are very well-researched by our editors and writers. I digest that information and find a photographer that best fits that assignment. This means the photographer’s shooting style: Can he shoot underwater? Can he fly a drone? Have I worked with him before? Is he reliable? Is he going to turn in his photos on time? Is he going to lose his memory card? Little things like that I have to keep in mind.

We send the photographer out and try to keep in touch with him while he’s in the field, if he’s reachable, so there’s always open communication. When he comes back from his assignment, he needs to send me a wide edit in low resolution. I’ll make my selections and send it back to him, and he turns in the final files. That’s one of my roles. Another would be to help look for stuff to shoot for the travelling photographers in the Philippines. I guess my role as a photo editor would go for the workshops, as well. I try to conceptualize the workshops’ programs and look for guest instructors. I think that’s pretty much what I do. I also do print checks when I’m available.

So what usually happens is you get an assignment and look for a photographer, but has it ever happened that a photographer comes in, shows you his portfolio, and then you try to find a story or you try to expand his portfolio into something that can be published?

Sonny: Both are correct. I experienced an instance like this in our last issue. One of our workshop instructors, Luis Liwanag, approached us for his idea of going on a trip to Sagada. He went to Sagada for eleven days and pitched his idea. I have not seen any work of Luis from Sagada prior to this, but I was familiar with his work and his shooting style. He asked us if we wanted him to shoot it how Grid shoots. The general look of Grid is a network of people that have their own visual language and that’s why my pegs for him were images that he had shot before. So the references were his own photographs, not others. At first he was confused, but then I brought out pictures of other photographers just to give him a guideline, but reminded him that these were things that only happen in the US, so I told him to look for things that only happen in Sagada. And I think he did very well.

We get random emails from photographers who want to work with us but this just brings me back to what I said earlier about photographers having a great single image, but not really having a cohesive story or body of work. That’s why we have workshops as well. We reach out to them, we reply to them. I usually give them my two cents, how we can further develop it and how we can work with them in the future.

Nina: Our editorial process is different.

Chaz: My digital agenda is not to be like anyone else in the Philippines. I’m very adamant about that. When I cover a new restaurant, I want to feature that restaurant in a certain angle that’s interesting to us. We don’t want to cover every single restaurant. The same goes for stories. I don’t want to run a story that’s too much like a press release. That kind of detracts me from actually wanting to know more about it. A lot of times we deal with the people whom we want to teach about the actual process because they’re so used to instant gratification. I usually talk to Nina about their work.

Nina: I work as the Features Editor. The stories and pitches run through me. For Grid, we want to get writers who are really proficient in their field, who can be really specific on a topic - for example, we have one writer for food and textiles, and another for mountain-running. We’ve had someone write a story for us who’s not a writer but he wanted to write something and we said, “yes, let’s do it.” Because we have editors to help them out during the writing process, we can always help them out with the technicalities.

What we’re more interested in is that you have something interesting to say and that you’re very well-versed in it. I always go for the writer who is well-researched and well-informed. I think the same thing goes for the photography. We get all of these pitches, and we ask them what they want to do for us.

Sonny: If you want to work with us, you have to be a little more direct and specific. What do you want to do for us? I’m not asking you to hand over your stuff to us on a silver platter, but just be a bit more mindful about it.

Nina: At first, you just want the publication to know what you’re going to write about, how it’s going to be different because you might pitch something and go, “Hey, I know this place that you may not know about,” but the odds are we already know or someone else has pitched it too. We go to the same places and write stories over and over again, but it doesn’t feel different. So your pitch has to be more than “I know this piece of information that nobody knows about.” No, it’s supposed to be why it’s special because you’re writing it.

Sonny: We also appreciate it when people are persistent enough to meet with us. There is no chance that I would send a photographer out for the first time without meeting them. There’s just so much that could go wrong. For me, it’s very reassuring to meet with a person face-to-face and figure out how he works, how he interacts with people.

Individuality and bringing your own style seems to be important in your team. How do you usually partner photographers and writers on assignments, especially if you’re looking for distinct voices in their field?

Sonny: Usually we just joke around, “what if we pair them up?” There’s this section called “Drive-By,” so we decided to pair this driver/writer and photographer. And the story was amazing.

Nina: We’ve never had an instance wherein someone says, “I can’t work with that.”

Sonny: In fact, what’s really cool about it is that after the story, there’s this weird bond between them.

Chaz: The photographer-writer dynamic really enhances the story. I remember the jungle survival training piece we did.

Nina: Which also started as a joke. Some of the stories really started out as a joke. The joke behind that is that they wanted to send two people who looked like they wouldn’t survive the jungle survival training.

Chaz: So it was me and Nina.

Nina: Yes. Chaz now knows how to hunt for shrimp and fish.

Chaz: Yeah, and crab. And frogs. I could live off frogs.

Sonny: Some endangered bats too.

Nina: They are un-endangered. I googled them. They were just tiny bats, which we ate. So for your earlier question about how we find leads, sometimes we just play around with the flexibility, we joke around, and sometimes, it turns out into good story ideas.

With that freedom, how do you come up with coherent ideas? How do you combine all your ideas into a cohesive magazine?

Nina: It’s a really long process, and we shelve some ideas sometimes. If they’re too many, we put them in the next issue, in the lineup.

Chaz: We have a story way back in November, and I don’t think it’s going to see the light of day even in the next issue.

Nina: Sonny and I had a story since Volume 1, and we have been pitching that for a year, and it’s been a really long time. We all have our own opinions and insights, and it seemed like it didn’t fit anywhere so we had to ask ourselves what we were going to do with it. Then, this issue comes out and that was the perfect time to run it. Sometimes, it just boils down to the timing.

Chaz: Or a lot of people submit their work. Sometimes, our ideas internally don’t see the light of day for over a year.

Nina: Sometimes, when we talk about our ideas, we realize that they are half-baked and then later on, someone will throw in something new and we’ll remember that. We put it together, and now it’s complete. There are also stories wherein we realize a few months later that we don’t really need to do it.

What stories or projects can we look forward to from Grid Magazine?

Chaz: We have a workshop coming soon.

Sonny: We’re going to have another photography workshop, but that’s all we can say right now. It will be similar to the one we had in La Union. We’ll be shooting and editing for three to four nights and we’ll invite a couple of guest speakers.

Chaz: That’s going to be in the end of April or in May. So people can come to our workshops. We build our networks and we come together for all of the people who we have to thank for us coming this far. So there’s going to be more photographers and writers and collaborations.

Nina: Our first workshop was “GRID Open Call,” wherein we had photographers come in and bring their work. Our staff writer was actually the winner of that open call.

Chaz: You can expect more workshops with photographers and videographers.

Nina: Volume 2 is in the works.

Chaz: It’s bigger, and thicker.

Nina: Yes. In terms of destinations, you’ll be seeing lots of places.

Sonny: Lots of familiar places. Very unique stories for the next issue.

Nina: If you’re a follower of Grid, you’ll know what to expect because we’re not changing it up too much.

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